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One councillor stands up for answers

Keeping some councillors in the dark, decisions made without all the information and worse still, a failure to be totally up front with the residents of Bendigo.

That’s the picture disturbingly emerging with greater clarity when it comes to the Bendigo Bunch on just about any and every decision that plunges our once pride city into the depths of despair as our employees – staff and councillors – blatantly go about doing whatever they want.

It has been costly abysmal plan after abysmal plan to “revitalise” the CBD and the Hargreaves Mall in particular, the appalling wasteful attempted to forcibly acquire farm land at Marong and most certainly so with the dud GovHub that will see our land and buildings sold and the city forced to pay rent while over in Ballarat, they get a GovHub without costing council (ratepayers) a cent and for hundreds more jobs too.

This week it emerged that the Bendigo Bunch isn’t only cutting corners on GovHub. You may remember the boxing gender equality war of words a few weeks back and then the resignation of GovHub-supporting councillor Yvonne Wriggleworth who cited conflict with council actions against its own gender policy.

Well, Cr Andrea Metcalf, one of the few brave councillors not to buckle to officer directions on GovHub, has discovered that there is no gender equity strategy for the council despite what Mayor O’Rourke and CEO Niemann said when the boxing furore erupted.

The Bendigo Advertiser has reported that Cr Metcalf told council this week that Ms Wrigglesworth's resignation and media coverage of issues associated with the use of "ring girls" at the boxing event led her to question when a policy on gender equity had actually come before council for endorsement.

She was told the strategy was under development and had not been presented to council. Yet, Ms Wrigglesworth had cited council actions appearing to "blatantly contradict council policies" in her resignation statement.

The city was involved in the development of a Greater Bendigo Coalition for Gender Equity Leadership Statement, which was launched in March.

"Clearly former Cr Wrigglesworth was under the impression that the leadership statement had been endorsed by council, whereas it appears only to have been launched," she said. "It is not possible to contradict a policy or strategy that does not exist."

She said she became aware that the policy Ms Wrigglesworth felt council had contradicted did not yet exist because she asked, after researching the situation for herself.

Meeting minutes from December 2017 provided an update on the gender equity strategy as part of a progress report on the community plan.

At that point, Cr Metcalf said the project was 20 per cent complete with a due date of June 30, 2018.

"Progress comments advise that the project brief was approved by council," she said.

She said she went back through weekly councillor briefing agendas, councillor-only meeting agendas, weekly bulletins and a councillor knowledge bank.

"In these, I can find no record of any discussions with the full council regarding the progress of the project at touch points in its evolution," Cr Metcalf said.

"It appeared to me that most councillors had not had any opportunity for input, feedback or direction through the project's development and, indeed, don't appear to have ever endorsed a strategy or statement."

So she said she asked: "Could I please be advised what date the gender equity policy was endorsed by council?"

Cr Metcalf read part of the response aloud during yesterday's council meeting:

"In recent days, local media has erroneously referred to the Greater Bendigo Coalition for Gender Equity Leadership Statement as the city's Gender Equity Strategy and/or policy.

"The leadership statement was launched in March this year, to coincide with International Women's Day."

It went on to say: "The city's strategy is currently under development and has not yet been presented to council, nor has a date been set for presentation at this point."

As such, Cr Metcalf said she had questions for the city's executive leadership.

"Either the executive leadership did not know that the city had no such Gender Equity Strategy in place, despite it being a talking point for three weeks, or a decision was made not to inform councillors at this table, and a councillor no longer at this table, or the wider public of the fact," Cr Metcalf said.

"Either outcome is totally unacceptable."

Like questions on the dud GovHub, the silence from the Bendigo Bunch has been deafening.




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